Crawfish boil

You all know how I feel about cupcakes (which admission nearly prompted Lady Loves Cake to disown me as a friend) .  But when American cupcake pushers Bea’s of Bloomsbury announced their summer popup Crawfish Boil, now that was something I felt I could get on board with.

So along with the aforementioned Lady Loves Cake and two blogless friends, we booked tickets for last Thursday night at Bea’s Maltby Street Market diner. Pre-warned to come in our eating clothes (“clothes you can burn afterwards”), we arrived to find the room set with long trestle tables covered in paper, with big rolls of kitchen paper on the end of each table, and a bib each. It set the scene for some serious eating.


The “crawfish” in question (in the States this refers to freshwater crayfish) are American Signal Crayfish. These were introduced here in the 1970s to deal with over-trapping and declining numbers of native crayfish. They were intended to be farmed, but found their way into the waterways and the bottom fell out of the farming industry. The American invaders are outcompeting the native crayfish, creating an environmental own goal for the UK government.

The crawfish were supplied by Crayfish Bob, who has the fantastic mission to go out of business due to lack of stock. It was clearly my patriotic duty to rid our waterways of as many of these critters as possible!

Tray upon tray of crayfish, sweetcorn, sausages, and potatoes arrived at our table, and we gobbled them up as quickly as we could, accompanies by garlic bread and tasty sauces and dips.


There were margaritas and strawberry lemonade to wash it all down with.

Our cute little crawfish friends… yum! (apparently the bigger ones get exported to Scandinavia, but it’s important to eat the little ones too in order to stop the destruction they cause)

I really took my duty very seriously. The body count was high…

All you can eat crawfish, sweetcorn, and garlic bread… it really was a fantastic evening and I have never had so much fun saving the environment.

Bea’s Crawfish Boil is on Thursday nights until September 14. All you can eat for £24, bookings here.

Borough market tour

When I first moved to London, Borough Market was one of the first places I visited. However, I hadn’t been for a while when Celia Brooks-Brown invited me on one of her tours of Borough Market. The market is constantly changing, especially with the redevelopment around London Bridge (Europe’s tallest building, anyone?) so I thought it would be interesting to go around the market with someone who knew it a lot better than I did.

We started off with breakfast (toast and fruit salad) at Roast, a restaurant that lives upstairs at the market, overlooking the market floor. I had never actually been before, and it was a nice way to start the day.

Between that, a wine tasting at Bedales, and finishing up at The Turkish Deli, Celia took us to all her favourite stalls, where there was plenty of food and drink to taste and hidden gems to discover.

We had some (cooked) scallops

Trying an acai smoothie for the first time

I bought some amazing methode champenoise cider from these guys at New Forest Cider. It was really tasty – I think I’ll be buying some again come Christmas time.

Bumped into my friend Emily selling Parmesan.

I won’t go through everywhere we went and everything we tried as a real tour is better than a virtual one! I will however share one new product Celia introduced me to as it may well be life-changing:


Belper Knolle. The picture and the name still don’t give much away, do they? Belper Knolle actually means “the tuber from Belp”. Inside you find this:


It comes from a creamery in Switzerland, where they make a soft cheese which is rolled in garlic, black pepper and salt before being dried for several weeks. At that point it is perfect for shaving over pasta, salads or anything else that needs a flavour hit. You can use it in place of Parmesan, although it has a very different flavour. I love it and have been eating far too much pasta lately as a delivery vehicle for this unique cheese. With its lovely packaging I think it would make a fantastic gift for the foodie who has everything (I’m quite willing to receive one for every birthday and Christmas).

There were plenty of other hidden gems on the tour, so I really recommend giving it a go whether you are just visiting London or if you are an old hand! Celia is the only person licensed to take tours around the market, and she knows absolutely everyone there – and, it would seem, every product on offer too. Go hungry – you will not need breakfast or lunch!

I was a guest of Celia Brooks Brown on the tour. Tours cost £70 and include a LOT of food and drink. Bookings can be made here.

Olympic food and drink

On Sunday I went to the Olympic Park. I had already read a lot about food and drink at the Olympics. Of course the top food and drink sponsors are Coca Cola, Cadbury and McDonald’s, leading the Children’s Food Campaign to brand it the “Obesity Games”. I quite like this infographic they released.

Before the Games there was a lot of information and misinformation about food at the Games. I knew that Sustain had been working with the organisers on the 2012 Food Vision – among other things, this means that all fish served at the Games is sustainable. Meat only has to meet the minimum Red Tractor standard though. There’s also a good article in the latest Jellied Eel.

Then there were the reports that McDonalds had banned chips at the Olympics and that it was a fries-only zone. They then relented and allowed fish to be served with chips.

I was also alarmed to read on the Tapwater website that Coca-Cola had banned drinking water from the Olympics. I thought this was strange as in the email I received before my chosen event (women’s 3m synchronised springboard final) it said I could take in an empty plastic water bottle to refill at the Games (even more strange that Tapwater moderated my comment pointing this out). I only have a stainless steel bottle from Tapwater, but I thought I’d risk it.

I’m happy to say the Army guys on security were sensible about the water bottle (they have metal canteens themselves, don’t they?) and just checked to make sure it was empty. Once I got inside, a refilling point was easy to find.


Walking around the Olympic Park in search of food, I was so impressed by the wildflower plantings everywhere. The park is actually really beautiful.


Green wall on the stadium

I really thought the food would be wall-to-wall McDonalds, with some pies and fish and chips thrown in. I wanted to see if it was possible to eat healthily at the Olympics and avoid McDonalds, Coca Cola and Cadbury!

Let’s see… World’s Largest McDonalds
Check. I walked on for five minutes or so, and then thought I must have gone in a circle because there in front of me was another one, exactly the same! With queues out the door.

However there were also plenty of other food concessions:

The salad didn’t look too healthy to be honest – dressing and a “crunchy topping”. I didn’t check whether the calorie counts were listed.


“World food” options in World Square.

I would have liked a burrito but the queue was immense. So I chose salt fish (MSC Haddock) and ackee instead. At my local Caribbean place, I get it with rice, but this time it came with these deep fried dumpling things – so much for trying to choose the healthy option!

After wandering around and eventually finding a fork to eat it with, I tried to find a seat at one of the picnic tables under a Coca Cola umbrella, but ended up on a park bench as there was no space in the seating area.

Salt fish and ackee, with a side of fat.

No sooner had I sat down, than lightning lit up the sky and the loudest thunderclap I have ever heard rumbled away. And then the heavens opened.

Holding umbrella with one hand, trying to eat with the other, and getting drenched down my back.

Dry people eating their lunch.

For a drier and fancier (though not much fancier) option, there was a Seafood and Champagne brasserie. Prices started at £29 for two courses – no thank you! Produce was British but out of season – purple sprouting broccoli in July?

Despite the on and off rain, there was a real party atmosphere in the park. Witness these people playing Twister:
It was hugely exciting just to be there – it seemed such a long way off and now it was finally here. I worked at the Torch Relay on Thursday at a community breakfast, there wasn’t a sponsor in sight and it melted my cynicism right away. The Opening Ceremony did us all proud. And then I was there, at the park, at the Actual Olympics!

As for the food, I think next time I would take a picnic. And maybe buy some No.1 Fruit Cup to drink with it:

(Cynicism returns: Pimm’s, not being a sponsor of the Games, is not allowed to be called by its real name).